Katie Dahl Kickstarts New Album

Photo by Len Villano

Katie Dahl has saved every penny that she earned from the sales of her first album, County Line, in a special account, but her frugality wasn’t enough to fund her follow-up release, Leaky Boats and Paper Birds.

Since you can’t get a loan to record an album, the Door County folk singer is following others of her genre down a new funding path to Kickstarter, a crowd-sourcing site for micro-philanthropy.

“A ton of folk singer-songwriters are doing it now,” Dahl says. Another singer with Door County ties, Jeremy Lindsay of JT and the Clouds, recently used a Kickstarter campaign to raise $22,000 to record an album with Allison Russell for their joint project, Birds of Chicago.

Dahl’s goals are a little less ambitious. She hopes to raise $3,000.

With Kickstarter, projects have 30 days to reach a fundraising goal. Creators make a page about their project and solicit donations from friends and strangers. If a campaign falls a dollar short, its creator gets nothing. If the goal is reached, the creator keeps 100 percent ownership in the idea and doesn’t have to pay back the investment. Kickstarter expects to raise $150 million for projects such as documentaries, small businesses, and albums in 2012.

“I was unconvinced until I gave to a Kickstarter project and was really impressed,” Dahl says. “They’ve got a great site and it’s really straight-forward.”

Dahl funded her 2009 recording with her own savings, but admitted to a bit of naïveté in her first foray into putting her voice on an album.

“I had never heard myself recorded before and to me everything sounded great, but I didn’t know,” she says. “I had a lot of top-notch musicians on the first one who played free and cheap. Not only am I not as cute and young anymore for people to donate their time, but I want to pay the people for their talent. When I sell the album, to not pay them feels wrong.”

That first album sold 1,200 copies – “small potatoes in the standards of the world, but great in the standards of me,” she says. She aimed to step up the production of her second album, recorded at David Alley’s Sister Bay studio with the help of a host of musicians, including guitar-picking wizard Eric Lewis, who appears on every track.

One advantage of Kickstarter is that it creates buzz for a project or business that a loan does not. Dahl hopes to tap into those opportunities with her campaign.

“There are folk radio shows that people intently listen to,” she says. “Within the folk world, Kickstarter, makes them more likely to request it on the radio and increases the profile of the album before it’s out.”

Dahl says Kickstarter, to her, isn’t about charity.

“I don’t give to Kickstarter projects to be benevolent,” she says. “I give money to a musician’s campaign because I want the album. I want my project to be tangible. I want people to feel like they’re getting the bang for their buck.”

Dahl plans to reward donors with CDs, bumper stickers, and even a personal house concert for larger donors. She finished writing the songs during a January retreat to a friend’s house in Albuquerque and recorded most of the tracks in February and March.

Dahl’s Kickstarter campaign went live Wednesday, April 11. She hopes to release the album this summer.

To learn more about Dahl, visit Visit her Kickstarter site here>>